In this blog, we travel down the west coast of Florida, stopping in Sarasota, Cape Haze, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach (where we see the destruction from Hurricane Ian), and Marco Island. We then make a big hop to Marathon in the Florida Keys, where we will stay for two weeks.

Day 265 – Wednesday, 02/14 – From Gulfport, FL to Sarasota, FL – 38 miles, Travel Time: 4hrs 10min

Gulf Port, FL to Sarasota, FL
Gulf Port, FL to Sarasota, FL

The tide was out at Gulfport on Wednesday morning, so we delayed our departure until 11:00 to get some extra water. The channel from Gulfport to the ICW is fairly shallow, and since we didn’t have too far to go, we waited.

Once we’d pulled out of our slip, we went to the fuel dock, and Brenda jumped off the boat to return the pass card for the gate locks. Then we spun around and headed out of the harbor.

We had plenty of water until just before the ICW when there was a shoal and our depth finder read -0.2 ft under the boat. We have it set to give us an extra 6″ of clearance, but we are glad that we waited for the tide to come up.

Just as we turned onto the ICW, a fellow Looper was heading in the opposite direction, and we grabbed photos of each other as we passed. The rest of the trip to Tampa Bay was fine. There were a couple of shallow areas, but nothing too scary. We crossed the shipping channel that goes under the Tampa Skyway Bridge and into deeper water toward Sarasota Bay. Once we were past the channel, we could pick up speed and make up some time from our late departure.

While we were crossing Tampa Bay, we saw some boats up on the sand bars; one of them was pretty good-sized. We suspect that they are leftovers from Hurricane Ian.

Just as we crossed from Tampa Bay into Sarasota Bay, we had to open two lift bridges as they didn’t have enough clearance for us. The bridges are timed and open 1/4 past and 1/4 of the hour. They were only about two miles apart. At the first one, a commercial boat was just going through, so we were able to sneak through with them. As a result, we reached the second bridge early and had to wait 15 minutes for the opening.

We pulled into Marina Jack’s in Sarasota just after 3:30. After getting tied up, we stopped by Indigo, who had arrived two days before, but they were off their boat visiting with family. We walked up to the marina office and checked in, then stopped at the outdoor Tiki bar for a docking beer.

Since it was Valentine’s Day, we figured all the restaurants would be quite busy. So, being the romantic I am, I took Brenda back to the Tiki bar/restaurant at the marina for dinner. The main restaurant was packed, but the Tiki bar was fine, and we had a nice dinner.

As we were walking back to the boat, we noticed that Brenda and Tim on Indigo were back there. We caught up with them a bit.

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Day 266 – Thursday, 02/15 – In Sarasota, FL

Thursday, we walked across the street to downtown for breakfast at the Palm Avenue Deli, a little bagel shop, then wandered up to Whole Foods to look around. We like looking around Whole Foods but don’t like looking at their prices!

Chimney Cakes
Kürtős Chimney Cakes

On our way back to the boat, we stopped at Kürtős, a bakery that makes Hungarian Chimney Cakes. These are essentially bread dough wound around a stainless steel tube and then baked to come out as a crispy hollow bread tube.

They come in a variety of flavors, from sweet, like cinnamon sugar, to savory, like jalapeno and cheese. You can eat them as is or have them filled. For the savory varieties, they offer chicken, ham, or egg salad. For the sweeter varieties, you can have ice cream! We bought a few of the cinnamon sugar flavors to take back to the boat for breakfast tomorrow!

In the afternoon, I walked around the marina basin and took some photos of the boat and the mooring field while Brenda took a nap. In the evening, we walked back into town and went to dinner at Patrick’s 1481 restaurant. Patrick’s is a gourmet hamburger restaurant. We had some great burgers and duck-fat french fries!

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Sarasota is a very expensive and, in our opinion, snooty city. There are many fifty-million-dollar plus condo high-rises all around the city. The “valet” parking lots are filled with Porches, Bentleys, Ferraris, and the like. The people are so into showing off their affluence (real or imagined) that they come across as unfriendly. We’ve been here a few times now, and while the marina is nice, it’s just not our kind of people. Even the other boaters with their multi-million dollar yachts are snooty on the docks. Something that you don’t see elsewhere except perhaps in Miami. Oh, well. Our boat is paid for, so I can sleep at night without worrying about where our next boat payment will come from.

Day 267 – Friday, 02/16 – From Sarasota, FL to Cape Haze, FL – 37 miles, Travel Time: 4hrs 50min

Sarasota, FL to Cape Haze, FL
Sarasota, FL to Cape Haze, FL

Our next stop was Cape Haze. We had planned to stop in Venice (home of Ringling Brothers), but the marina there had only recently started taking transient boats again. We stayed there on our first Loop and enjoyed it. But the last time we were in the area, they were building condos along the edge of the marina and were not taking transient boaters.

Looking for something close by, we found Cape Haze Marina, a little place about 3 miles further south. The staff is very friendly, and they have a cool little water taxi to take you to a restaurant at the Palm Island Resort on Don Pedro Island. The Island is just across the waterway, but the water taxi runs about a mile up the ICW to an inlet with a dock at the restaurant. Next to the marina, there is a large car ferry to bring people back and forth to the island. It’s the only way to get there as there is no bridge. We really liked Cape Haze, so we booked our stay there again.

At 9:00, we pulled out of Marina Jack’s. Indigo had left about an hour before us, and we could hear them on the radio requesting bridge openings. Much of the day’s route was in slow-speed zones, so we just took our time. February is Osprey nesting season in that part of Florida, and just about every channel marker had a nest with young Ospreys on it. As we cruised past, momma (or daddy) would give us “the stare.” “Don’t come any closer!”

We arrived at Palm Harbor Marina in Cape Haze at 1:30. We had to wait for a few minutes to get in because the car ferries were swapping places on each bank and blocking the entrance. Usually, they have ten or so transient slips, but Hurricane Ian damaged most of their docks, and they just got a permit to start rebuilding. As a result, there are only three transient slips available. One spot was already occupied by Selkie, a Looper we had met before. They were away from their boat but expected back that evening. Northern Lights, another Looper, was also at the dock, so it was a full house with the three of us.

We had skipped buying anything at Whole Foods in Sarasota, knowing that there was a Publix near the marina in Cape Haze. Once we got settled, we got an Uber to the store. We did some grocery shopping and restocked on water and soda (stuff we can’t carry on a bike).

That evening, we took the water taxi to Rum Bay for dinner. It was a nice ride back up the ICW, into the mangroves, and to the restaurant’s dock. We had a nice meal and chatted with some folks about our trip. We caught the last water taxi back to the marina at 8:00.

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Day 268 – Saturday, 02/17 – In Cape Haze, FL

Rainy Day In Cape Haze, FL
Rainy Day In Cape Haze, FL

We had booked a three-night stay in Cape Haze because the weather forecast was for rain on Saturday and Sunday. When we woke up on Saturday morning and looked out the window, we saw that the weather people had gotten it right. It was raining, and there was heavy fog. We could hardly see the other side of the waterway, just a couple of hundred feet away.

In the late morning, there was a break in the rain for a couple of hours, so I took the opportunity to wash the boat. It really needed it! We have been in fairly chilly temps for the last few months, so I’ve not been “motivated” to wash the boat. Even though it was overcast and foggy, the temps were in the low 70s. I prefer to wash the boat on cloudy days so that the soap doesn’t dry before I can scrub and rinse it off.

While I was washing the boat, Brenda did a couple of loads of laundry and cleaned the inside.

After relaxing for a while, we had a light dinner on the boat.

Day 269 – Sunday, 02/18 – In Cape Haze, FL

Sunday was another foggy, rainy day. It rained fairly hard most of the day, so we just hung out on the boat. I worked on the blog a bit, and Brenda did cross-stitch. I’m sure both of us nodded off from time to time.

There are not many dining options in Cape Haze, and the water taxi was not running due to the rain. For dinner, I had planned to ride the bike up to Publix for a rotisserie chicken if it stopped raining, but at 5:00, it was still coming down hard. We checked on Uber Eats and GrubHub, and again, there were not a lot of options. In the end, we settled for Chinese food through GrubHub.

Day 270 – Monday, 02/19 – From Cape Haze, FL to Captiva Island, FL – 28 miles, Travel Time: 3hrs 0min

Cape Haze, FL to Captiva Island, FL
Cape Haze, FL to Captiva Island, FL

Our next stop is Captiva Island. When we were in the area in 2021, we stayed on Sanibel Island and enjoyed shelling on the Gulf shore beaches. Captiva is just north of Sanibel. You have to drive up Sanibel Island to get to Captiva if you come by car. During Hurricane Ian, the Sanibel Causeway, which links both islands to the mainland, was severely damaged, with one of the bridges completely destroyed, cutting off the island. Most of the homes and businesses on the island were heavily damaged. One of the historic lighthouses on Sanibel was destroyed, and the other was heavily damaged.

Captiva was also hit pretty hard by the storm. ‘Tween Waters Marina and Resort where we had reservations lost several buildings. In the 5 months since the storm hit, they have been VERY busy re-constructing, and when we arrived you could hardly tell that there had been a storm.

We had a quick trip in mostly open water. There was only one bridge that we needed to have opened, and that was an on-demand bridge which opened as we got close. On our way, we passed Boca Grande Marina, where Indigo had gone after Sarasota, and we could see the boat at the dock. We had a pod of dolphins follow us for several miles. They were coming right up to the underside of the swim platform. We were worried that if we slowed down quickly, they would run into them. Quit Tailgating Me!

As we neared Captiva, we turned off the ICW and onto a narrow channel leading to the island. Here, too, several boats were still up on the sand shoals, remnants of the storm.

When we arrived, we called the marina on the radio, and they instructed us to go stern in on a slip on the “north dock” and they would meet us there. The dock in front of the resort is Y-shaped with North and South arms. We saw a bunch of empty slips on the inside of the North arm, and while the water in the little basin in front of the docks looked shallow (there was a swimming area marked off right at the entrance), we figured we could get in okay. So, we swung around to the back side of the dock and backed into a slip.

The docks at Tween Waters
The docks at Tween Waters

There was no one there to catch our lines, but we’ve had that happen before. Then, on the radio, we heard, “Does anyone know who that big boat that just docked on the South dock is?” We responded, “It’s Kissed Some Frogs. We just checked in with you.” “Oh, you are supposed to be on the North Dock,” they said. “That’s okay. If you made it in, just stay there. We’ll be right over.” When the dock hand arrived, we learned that another set of docks around the corner was their “North” docks. They call the entire “Y” dock the “South Dock”. Oh well. This slip we ended up in is nicer anyway.

We were meeting Dez and Mike on Mad Cruzin. We have been traveling with them off and on since Chicago. When they got home to Sarasota, they sold their 44-foot Beneteau, similar to ours, and bought a 50-foot Beneteau Swift Trawler. They had just picked it up a few days before and took it out for a shakedown cruise. We arranged for them to meet us at ‘Tween Waters so that we could check out the new boat. Because of its size, they had to dock on the outside face dock of the “South Y-Dock,” so we ended up right across from them. I love it when a plan comes together.

We got a tour of their boat. I had seen the Swift Trawler 50 at a boat show in London several years ago. Brenda has seen them from the outside but has not had the opportunity to see one inside. It’s a very nice boat. It has three good-sized bedrooms and lots of salon space. We really like it, but it’s just too big for our type of cruising.

That evening, we got together with Dez and Mike for dinner at the Shipyard restaurant in the resort.

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Day 271 – Tuesday, 02/20 – In Captiva Island, FL

When I was a kid, I built a metal detector from a Radio-Shack kit. I’ve always been fascinated with metal detecting, whether it’s finding old artifacts or a Pirate Chest filled with Spanish Silver and Gold Doubloons on a Florida beach!

I had been thinking about getting one to motivate me to get up from the computer and go for a walk. While we were in Sarasota, I decided to order one and have it delivered to Captiva. I also ordered some new rear lights for our bikes as we’ve been riding them in the evenings after dusk quite a bit. The order was scheduled to arrive late on Tuesday.

In the morning, we went for a walk up the beach to do some shell hunting. It was close to high tide, so there weren’t a lot. Brenda only picked up twenty or thirty🤪. We ended up walking a couple of miles up the beach, then came back to the resort on the roadside. Even though the island had been hit hard by the storm, there were almost no signs of damage. Every house along the way had a fresh coat of paint, a new stone, shell, or brick driveway, and freshly laid sod. These houses sell for several million dollars, and money talks when getting repairs and restorations done. The only signs of the storm were new construction mini-mansions that were being built, where smaller homes were damaged and torn down.

When we got back, we went to the pool bar for lunch and then waited around for our packages to arrive. Amazon said they were delivered around 2:30. However, being a resort, they have to go through the receiving department and then be delivered to your room (or boat) so someone can get a tip! We stopped by the marina office and asked about them. They told us they had not seen them but would look into it.

As we were going to dinner at the pizza restaurant at the resort, the dock hand popped out of the office and said he had our packages. We grabbed them and put them on the boat before walking to dinner.

We had a very good pizza for dinner. The pizza restaurant is in the same place as the Shipyard restaurant we’d eaten at the night before. Instead of sitting in the main dining room, we sat at the bar and ordered from the pizza menu.

As we were leaving the restaurant, we saw a spectacular sunset over the Gulf. It was very pretty, with the wind blowing the palm trees as the sun went down.

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Day 272 – Wednesday, 02/21 – In Captiva Island, FL

In the morning, I put together the metal detector and got it set up. I have watched a number of YouTube video tutorials, so I was basically familiar with it. We then walked across the street to the beach, and while I tried out the detector, Brenda went shell hunting.

It was pretty fun. My first find was a penny! In the end, I added four bottle caps, a pull tab, part of an old can, a fishing weight, and a nut to the collection. However, there was no treasure chest. Brenda did much better with her search and had quite a nice selection of shells by the time we decided to head back to the boat.

In the afternoon, I installed the new rear lights on our bikes. The old ones came with the bikes when we bought them, and they are not very bright. I bought some that were rechargeable, LED and had a lot of good ratings for brightness. Installation was pretty simple. Just unbolt the old ones and bolt on the new retainer clips. The lights snap in and out to make charging them easier.

After they had charged up, I snapped them onto the bikes, and they immediately turned on. There is a feature that they turn on when they detect movement. If they detect braking action, they get brighter, and the flashing stops acting as break lights. Very cool!

We found an issue. There is no way to turn them completely off! Anytime they detect movement (vibration), they turn on. So, anytime the boat engines are running, they turn on and wear down the batteries. I couldn’t believe that a manufacturer would make something without a way to turn it off. There is a button that allows you to change the flash pattern if you want to. I checked the instructions, and there was no reference to turning it off. In the end I emailed the manufacturer, and they replied that no, there was no way to turn it off. They go off by themselves. I explained to them that we are on a boat that moves and that people carry bikes on their cars that move, and it runs down the batteries. They never responded. I checked on Amazon, and it seems that all of the lights in the same style must be made in the same factory in China, as they all work the same. Idiots! If I ran the world…

That evening, we went back to the Shipyard for dinner. It’s good, and the next closest restaurant is a mile or so away on a busy road with no bike lane or sidewalk. We didn’t want to risk riding after dark, even with our new super duper always on flashy brake lights.

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Day 273 – Thursday, 02/22 – In Captiva Island, FL

It has finally started to warm up! We haven’t worn shorts all day or run the boat from the flybridge since August in Canada. Over the past few days, it’s been over 70° by early morning and getting into the upper 70s by afternoon.

It was warm in the morning, so we went for another shell hunting/metal detecting session on the beach. Again, Brenda did very well finding shells. This part of the Gulf Coast is famous for its shelling. I did okay with the metal detector, coming up with a quarter, a penny, 3 bits of old aluminum can, a bit of foil, a nut, and the grand find of the day, a pair of glasses! So, now that I’ve got 27¢, I only have a couple of hundred more dollars to go to break even!

After our beach walk, we went back to the boat and got the bikes. We rode into town to see what was there. “Town” consists of a small grocery store, four or five restaurants, a funky art gallery, a beach gear store, and a couple of souvenir shops. We parked the bikes and walked through the grocery store and shops. We went to the art gallery, but it was not open yet. It was almost noon, so we went to one of the restaurants, RC Otters Island Restaurant, and had some lunch. After lunch, we went back to the art gallery and it was open.

Parking Fees Captiva
Parking Fee for Captiva Beach!

They had quite an interesting collection of art, sculpture, glass, and other local crafts. We spent about an hour looking around.

From the gallery, we rode to the end of the main street. The entire end of the island, several hundred acres, is a private gated resort, so we had to turn around. There was a public beach at the end of the public road, so we rode the bikes there.

Alison Hagerup Beach Park is a nice park with paid parking and some porta-potties. It was pretty busy. You must have to want to go to the beach pretty badly to come here as the parking is $25 for 2-hours, and $40 for the day! That said, it’s one of the only public parking lots we saw on the island.

On our way back, we swung by the Captiva School, Chappel, and Cemetary. All are conveniently located next to each other. They all set about 50 feet from the Gulf Shore beach and have been hammered over the years by storms. However, they have stood the test of time. Like everything else on the Island, they had a fresh coat of paint, new glass in the windows, and the gravestones had been placed back in their approximate correct locations. The Captiva Chapel-By-The-Sea is a very popular wedding venue. Very quaint!

Dinner that night was… you guessed it! The Shipyard restaurant at the resort! The resort actually has several restaurants. Crow’s Nest Steakhouse is a high-end $100+ per person steakhouse. Old Captiva House is a seafood restaurant (also quite expensive). The Shipyard is their standard Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner restaurant. Captiva Crust is their pizza restaurant, which is just a different menu at The Shipyard. The Oasis Pool Bar and The Hideaway Pub lunch and light snacks next to the pool area. We didn’t bring “Dinner Dress” (sports coat, real shoes, socks, long pants that aren’t blue jeans, collared shirts that aren’t Hawaiian print), so we gave the high-end places a miss. The others were all very good!

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Day 274 – Friday, 02/23 – From Captiva Island, FL to Fort Myers Beach, FL – 22 miles, Travel Time: 2hrs 30min

Captiva Island, FL to Fort Myers Beach, FL
Captiva Island, FL to Fort Myers Beach, FL

Friday morning it was 61° when we left for Fort Myers Beach just before 11 am. We had waited to leave to allow time for the tide to come in. When we checked at 7:00, we only had 3-4 inches under the propellers! I think at low tide, we may have been touching the bottom in the slip. As we left the slip, we had about 8 inches of water, and once out of the basin and into the channel, we had a good foot under the keel.

We had a short run of 19 miles, so we took our time. Our planned route took us under the Sanibel Causeway Bridge “C,” with a listed height of 26 feet. We need 24 feet, so this seemed like a reasonable option. As we got close, we could see a crane working near the bridge, and from a distance, it didn’t look like 26 feet.

Since they were still repairing damage and dredging to fix the repercussions of Hurricane Ian, we decided to go under Bridge “A” instead. Bridge “A” has 70 feet of clearance and a much wider and more popular channel, so it has been inspected and dredged. This added 3 miles to our trip, which was not bad to ensure that we wouldn’t have a problem either with height or depth.

We arrived in Fort Myers Beach and backed into our slip at Pink Shell Marina at 1:15. The boat next to us was a Nordic Tug called Steadfast. Shortly after we arrived, the owners returned with their guests. He looked familiar, and when he introduced himself, we recognized him as Denton from Bella Mia. We met him last year at the start of our loop trip in Belhaven, North Carolina. He had given us a tour of his Krogan Express 52. He was traveling with his friends on Steadfast on part of their Loop trip.

In the evening, we walked across the street to the Pink Shell Resort and had dinner at their poolside restaurant.

As we returned to the boat, the moon was just rising. We were docked facing east, so we had a great view of the moon rising over the bay.

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Day 275 – Saturday, 02/24 – In Fort Myers Beach, FL

Saturday was Sunny, but the wind had come up. Fortunately, the wind was out of the West so the island and the large hotel buildings blocked most of it from the boat.

Late morning, we decided to go for a walk on the beach and see what shells Brenda could find and what I could come up with using the metal detector. We walked across the street and through the resort building to the beach.

The Island called Fort Myers Beach is less than 600 feet wide where we are. Even at its southern end, where it is its widest, it is less than 3,000 feet wide. This explains why the 15-foot tidal surge from Hurricane Ian pretty much flooded the island.

As we were walking to the resort entrance, we passed an old flatbed truck with a hot rod on the bed. It made a very cool pair! The beach here had been almost completely washed away during the storm. Most of the sand that was here has been reclaimed through dredging. They call this beach renourishment. They have done a good job, and the beach is about 200 feet wide at low tide.

When the storm came through, it washed major parts of hundreds of buildings away. For most of the hotels along the beach, the entire first and second floors were destroyed. While a few hotels and homes along the beach have re-opened, most are still closed and in various states of repair or demolition. As a result of the storm, tons of debris washed into the beach and ocean. We heard of a boat leaving Naples that hit an SUV floating in the water just after the storm. This makes metal detecting frustrating as there are many large pieces of debris buried a couple of feet below the sand. I dug up two sections of aluminum railing and partially uncovered what appeared to be an air conditioner before giving up. There is just too much junk buried to make metal detecting possible. I guess with more experience, I will be able to tell the good stuff from the junk by the signals.

Again, shelling beat metal detecting. Brenda had a great haul! She came across a large “Moon Jellyfish” that had washed up on the beach. It was the size of half a basketball!

Whelk with egg casings
Whelk with egg casing

Also washed up were things that looked like the skeletons of snakes! There were many of them. We thought that it was some sort of dried-up sea plant. At the resort, they have a booth on the beach with a naturalist who gives talks to the guests on sea life and birds in the area. Brenda asked, and we found out that they were the egg casings of Whelks. Whelks are snails in conical pointed shells. Very interesting!

All I brought back was a bottle cap, a bit of steel, and a chunk of aluminum railing.

We got a message from one of our Looper friends who was anchored up the island. They were going to Dock Ford’s for lunch with another Looper and invited us to join them. Dock Ford’s is on San Carlos Island, which sits between Fort Myers Beach and the Fort Myers mainland. There is a bridge that crosses from the mainland to San Carlos and then to Fort Myers, which is the main road access to Fort Myers Beach.

We took the bikes and rode to the bridge to cross to San Carlos Island. At the Fort Myers Beach end of the bridge, there is a park, and the weekly Farmers & Artisans Market was underway. We still had an hour before we were scheduled to meet for lunch, so we stopped and walked around. It was fairly small but had a nice selection of Arts and Crafts.

We rode our bikes across the bridge to Doc Ford’s and met up with Dawn and Jim from “Dawn Watch” and Jill and Scott from “Hope and Dreams”. We had a great lunch and caught up on everyone’s travels since our last meeting.

After lunch, we rode back to the boat, dropped off the bikes, and took the free trolley down the island to Publix, which was about 3 miles down the island. As we rode, we got a better view of the utter devastation. A large number of the businesses were just shells of buildings. Many homes were totally ripped apart, many sitting off of their foundations. On larger multi-story buildings, the first, second, and, in some cases, third floors had extensive damage. In many cases, the walls had been washed out, and it was just the steel structure holding up the upper floors. It will be years before all of this will get cleaned up. Many buildings didn’t qualify for flood insurance, so it will be up to the owners to pay for repairs. There were many with “For Sale” signs on them.

We got off the bus at Publix and did our shopping, then caught the bus as it came back from the other end of the island to go back to the boat. It was around 5:00 by this time, and traffic was horrible. Our trip to Publix had taken maybe 15 minutes, but our trip back was over an hour! The traffic was backed up all the way across the bridge to Fort Myers. Several people decided just to get off and walk because it was faster. The driver said it was typical. Once we got past the intersection that leads to the bridge, it was clear sailing in our direction.

We went across the street to the resort and had dinner at Rae’s Real Italian restaurant. This small restaurant is on the second floor and overlooks the beach, facing west so that you can enjoy the sunset. We got a table right next to the window. We had a nice dinner and watched the sunset over Sanibel Island while we had dessert.

When we walked back to the boat, we saw another moonrise. The pictures just don’t show how big the moon looked as it rose.

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Day 276 – Sunday, 02/25 – In Fort Myers Beach, FL

Sunday we has a lazy morning on the boat. In the afternoon we took a walk to the end of the island to Bowditch Point State Park. This park sits where the main channel comes around Fort Myers Beach and connects with the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a really busy channel for boats with a constant stream going past. While we were walking around, we saw that SeaTow was tied up under a tree just outside the channel, waiting for the inevitable grounding or engine problem call.

The park buildings were damaged in the storm and were still closed. Piles of sand were up against some of the bathrooms, and the whole area was fenced off. But the beach was open and clean. At low tide, you can walk the beach all the way around the tip of the point. We walked around, and Brenda found a few more shells, a starfish, and some crabs.

For dinner, we rode the bikes back toward the bridge and went to Wahoo Willie’s for dinner. Wahoo is an outdoor Tiki Bar type restaurant. This entire area was leveled in the storm, so most of the buildings were designed to be quickly constructed so that the businesses could reopen for the season.

As we were coming down the street, we almost turned around because there was a band playing, and it was so loud that it was uncomfortable. Fortunately, where they were, they were a little farther down the street at “Ugly’s Waterside Bar.” You could hear them from where we were sitting but still have a conversation. Why do bar band musicians always have to play so loud?!?!?!

After dinner, we rode back to the boat and put the bikes back on board in preparation for our departure to Marco Island in the morning.

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Day 277 – Monday, 02/26 – From Fort Myers Beach, FL to Marco Island, FL – 40 miles, Travel Time: 3hrs 4min

Fort Myers Beach, FL to Marco Island, FL
Fort Myers Beach, FL to Marco Island, FL

Monday morning was warmish at 63° when we left Pink Shell Marina. The wind of the last few days had pretty much died down, and it was a nice day for our run to Marco Island. We left Pink Shell just before 10:00 and pulled into Rose Marina in Marco Island right at noon. The next leg of our journey was going to be about 100 miles to the Keys, so we stopped at the fuel dock to top off our tanks. Marco was not hit as hard by Ian. However, Rose Marina is still the only one in the area that has fuel. We took on 136 gallons at $5.10 per gallon. Not counting Canada, it’s not the most we’ve paid on the trip, but it’s pretty close!

From there, we went to our slip, which was on the back side of the dock they use for the Key West Express, a large passenger catamaran that makes a daily run to and from Key West. It does the 100-mile run in about 3.5 hours at speeds up to 45 mph and can carry up to 500 passengers.

Bell Esprit, a Looper sailboat from Ontario, Canada that we’ve met a few times on the trip, was anchored just beyond our dock. We reached out to them and arranged to meet at the Dolphin Tiki Bar next to the marina for a drink and snacks. We walked over, and they took their dinghy. It was great to catch up with them!

After our Tiki-tails, we went back to the boat, and another Looper Sundancer who was docked at the marina next door stopped by to say Hi! There were lots of Loopers in Marco staging for the trip down to the Keys.

In the evening, we walked back over to the Dolphin Tiki Bar for dinner. At about 8:00, we heard voices behind the boat. The Key West Express had just docked on its return run, and the passengers were walking down the dock as they disembarked.

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Day 278 – Tuesday, 02/27 – In Marco Island, FL

Around 6:30 am, we started hearing the crew of the Key West Express getting the boat ready for departure. At 7:00, the passengers started rolling suitcases down the dock, heading to the boat. At 7:30, the engines roared to life, and at 7:45, it pulled out and headed out the channel. I’m glad we are early risers, or we would have had a wake-up call!

We walked a mile to the UPS Store to drop off a package. While we were out and about, we stopped at Walgreens and a few shops along the way. As we were walking past an auto repair shop, we saw a cool-looking car in the parking lot. I had never seen one like it before. It was a cross between a T-Bird and a Corvette. We stopped and took a few photos. I sent the photos to my friend Michael at A&M Engine and Marine, and he said that it was a C1 conversion. In 1953, Chevy made a C1 Corvette with this unique body styling. There are kits to modify the C5 Corvette to look like a C1. Check out the photos in the gallery below!

When we got back, Belle Esprit called us and asked if they could tie their dinghy up to our boat while they went food shopping. The marina charges $10 to dock your dinghy, and you really get nothing for it. We said that it was fine. They putted over and tied up their dinghy to the back of the boat, then headed toward Publix.

When dinner time rolled around, we walked to the Sand Bar restaurant down the street from the marina. It’s in an industrial building. It’s quite a big place. They have live music and a dance floor. Behind the bar, there are big cattle troughs filled with ice and beer. The place was quite crowded, and the food was great!

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Day 279 – Wednesday, 02/28 – From Marco Island, FL to Marathon, FL – 100 miles, Travel Time: 6hrs 17min

Marco Island, FL to Marathon, Florida Keys
Marco Island, FL to Marathon, Florida Keys

The run from Marco Island to Marathon in the Florida Keys is our Loop’s second longest water crossing. People stress out about the Northern crossing from Carabelle to Tarpon Springs, but this one is almost as long. The major difference for most boaters, I think, is that you are within sight of land for most of the way.

There was a bit of wind, but it was mostly on our stern, so we hardly felt it. The waves were tame at only about a foot. As with any trip along the Florida Gulf Coast, you have to keep an eagle eye out for crab pot buoys. It was finally warm enough that we ran the boat from up on the flybridge. This is the first time we ran from upstairs since sometime in Canada! It felt good to have the wind in our hair again.

The last mile into Marlin Bay in Marathon got a little shallow, but we made it in just fine. Marlin Bay has two basins, the Outer and Inner. On our last Loop, we stayed in the outer basin, which got a little bouncy when the wind came up. This time, we were in the much more protected inner basin. Our slip was right at the end of the stairs leading up to the pool area. Like the last time, the marina was full of seagrass. When we backed into our slip, I gave the engines a spurt of power to wash the grass out of the slip.

Marlin Bay is a popular Looper stop, with some staying for a month or even the whole winter. When we arrived, there were 12 other Loopers there. Astra, Blue Oddesy, Done and Gone, Done Saving, Hydrophilic, Karla B, Obsession (Namaste), Pangur Ban, Puffin, Setus, Sunset Delight, and Wanderlust 2. It was a big reunion!

After settling in and saying our hellos, we went up to the pool bar (conveniently located about 20 feet from the boat) for our docking beer (IPA and Rootbeer, respectively). Another thing that we remember from our last visit was the Iguanas. They are everywhere! At home, we have the little geckos running around. Here in Marathon, 2 to 4-foot-long Iguanas run around and drop from the trees. Within an hour of our arrival, one was on our finger dock checking out the boat. “Stay off my boat!” Cats are okay, but a 3-foot lizard is another story.

The Marlin Bay Resort doesn’t have a restaurant, but there are plenty of options up on Route 1, just a short walk away. For dinner, we went to the Florida Keys Steak & Lobster restaurant. We remembered a place from our last visit and thought this was it, but we were off by one building. We were thinking about the Overseas Pub & Grill, which is right next door, but we didn’t realize it until we were inside. We stayed anyway, and the meal was very good. Florida Keys Steak & Lobster is a bit higher-end and less fun than Overseas. We have planned to stay in Marathon for two weeks, so there will be plenty of opportunities to visit the Overseas Bar & Grill!

(Click gallery images to enlarge. Touch/Mouse over for captions.)

Kiss Some Frogs To Find Your Prince
Thanks for visiting! –Tom & Brenda

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